Imagine, if you will, two teams, A and B. Team A is a powerhouse, fresh off a division title. Team B is an aging team dealing with veterans who may have their best days behind them; a team that is simultaneously trying to incorporate rookies into important roles.
Winning Percentage: 80%
Runs Scored / Allowed: 156 / 100
AVG / OBP / SLG: .303 / .383 / .474
Winning Percentage: 37%
Runs Scored / Allowed: 123 / 146
AVG / OBP / SLG: .265 / .330 / .414
Diamondbacks and Mariners? Sadly, no - Team A is the 2008 Red Sox at Fenway Park, while Team B is them on the road. The Sox are 21-5 at home, but 11-19 away. On the current road trip, the team is 1-5, winning only in an improbable comeback against Seattle's Felix Hernandez. The Sox have been swept four times on the road, although one series was only two games against Baltimore. As the numbers above show, the Sox are worse in terms of both offense and pitching in road games.
This is all the more painful because it is a complete departure from last year, when the Sox had a winning road record (45-36, or 56%). Improbably, the 2007 team pitched significantly better on the road than it did at home. Sox pitchers put up a 3.59 road ERA, led by Beckett (2.18) and Schilling (3.65). The Sox home ERA was 4.14, but the offense hit better at Fenway than it did elsewhere.
So what is the source of the Sox road doldrums? I think the answer lies in the team's pitching, rather than its offense. Boston's away batting line last year was .262 / .344 / .424, which is only a little better (in OBP and SLG) than the 08 line. Yet the 2007 team had a winning record on the road. Meanwhile, Sox pitchers took a nose-dive on the road, putting up a 4.61 ERA where they had dominated the year before.
Two players stand out in particular. Buchholz, in limited time, has a huge home-away split. In three home games, his ERA is 1.04; in five road games, it soars to 8.64. Jon Lester has also been significantly better at home (2.72 ERA) than away (4.62) in his twelve starts.
How worrisome should this road trouble be in the long-run? Probably not very. Two thirds of the season remain, and there is plenty of time for the Sox to pitch and play better away from the Fens. Also, many teams, even very good ones, are simply worse on the road. For example, our division rivals, the Rays, have even more pronounced road and home splits in their pitching: the team ERA soars from 2.89 to 4.93 as they play away games. I, for one, expect that when the season ends the Sox will have a winning record in road games. This team is way too good to play .366 ball all season.
What do you think about the Sox road woes? Are they minor, or signs of something more serious? Will we be dealing with this all year, or is this one good road trip away from resolution?
(All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.)